Lgh Four East 1968

We just withered away like plants
that hadn't been watered
Nor had enough light;
You were bloated with insulin,
I shocked by shock treatments.

The staff, quacks and nurses,
Dried us in towels of tenderness,
And powdered us with condescending words,
Then strapped us tightly down
on beds that felt like boards -
Our screams were clear.
“The blood is gushing from our hearts-
Find a tourniquet so it may stop.”

They stared and shook their heads
And blinked at us:
'Dears, you are like droopy plants,
Waiting for our special care;
We will give you chlorophyll injections
And feed you green Fertitabs in here
So your flimsy stems will, once again,
Stand erect, in which case
You will at least be saleable
When you leave here,
Or decorate an empty waiting-room,
Or some hall table, or sit on the sill
In a dying man’s room.
But, remember,
You must cooperate in here'.
“Who are you”, we said, 'for we are
Having trouble with our souls.”

'We are Doctors of Disgrace
And Surgeons of Despair –
There isn’t any space –we don't
Touch souls in here.
They are like bubbles floating
Out of reach,
That burst
And sting our eyes -
We hate souls Here.”

We strained our minds through written lines,
We sieved our memories for hope;
We watched the ink blots blur,
As they swabbed away our tears,
So wasted There.
“We flew too near the sun,
Our skin is burned,
Our blisters ooze…
We have to find the Middle Air”,
I said.
You said: 'Let's get out of Here.
We must go home instead
To convalesce; the sun still shines
And blisters aren’t so bad
Compared to Here.”

by Philippa Lane

Other poems of LANE (45)

Comments (1)

Unfortunately I'm a bit lacking in context for this but no matter: it is still a very powerful piece of poetry working on several levels with much intelligence and poetic craft on display. It appears to contain much social comment that is time contextualised.68 was a time of student unrest, social change, the war of ideas was livelier - with much less self censorship going on than there is now especially - than it is now. If it was in the French sector than it might be connected to events in France where the level of unrest was probably as high as anywhere - including the US campuses. The LGH is probably a hospital - not too hard to deduce from the intro stanza - though it might be symbolic. Sounds as much like an attitudinal change process as anything. The final stanza reminds obviously of Icarus, and therefore Joni Mitchell's Song for Amelia, but especially of Jackson Browne's Before The Deluge 'In the end they traded their tired wings For the resignation that living brings.. 'etc. I enjoyed this introspective (retrospective work?) immensely. Challenging, stimulating and very poetic. Glad to have found this. I'll be back if there's more like this. Thanks, jim (a reader not a poet)